Sofie and Carlo - The Festival Director Explains

James Eno - 06 May 2019

I've been in this business - a Director of festivals, some of the greatest - for many years. But not as many as some might think. Count my wrinkles. They are like the rings of a tree trunk. One wrinkle for every festival completed.

There are festivals and festivals. Sometimes the wrinkle is just a little kink. Sometimes a deep furrow. This year I think it will be a trench – the sort of wrinkle under my eyes that archaeologists will find and then speculate about the wars that caused it.

I have an excellent and dedicated staff, don't get me wrong. They know how things should go. Tickets are selling OK – not the best ever, I have to admit. My 7 performances of Waldo The Necromancer, a story of 5th century Vikings in Arabia, with Swahili libretto and set to music for electric percussion and five countertenors by Costas Pimpelbaum, is not attracting the crowd I'd hoped for.

But we will get there. We always do. And at last we can be found easily on line. The new festivalfinder search engine is already bringing us fresh audiences. Some are a little unexpected. Today there is the lady from Alabama who found us via the site and has bought a ticket for just one concert.

She insists that we provide crêche facilities not only for her toddler but for her three poodles and a pet mongoose. Do they all bite? Is this fair? Is this reasonable?

Dare I say no? If I do, will she sue me for canine discrimination? If it were a cat, would twitter be full of complaints on #Meowtoo? But if I say yes, what about the insurance?

I need more staff. Desperately. Dealing with such abominations is not in the job descriptions of any of my colleagues. They are all very clear. And there are so many little challenges like this these days that in the past we would have shrugged and said, it goes with the territory. Festival extra duties. Not with contracts these days. Extra duties have to be defined, not just assigned.

I need a mop and bucket, a dustpan and brush, a tissue and hanky? I've explained all this to Oxana, my fierce head of administration. I've told her I'm near to breaking point. My nerves are shot and we open next week. All live-streamed, every event sent to the European Broadcasting Union.

She told me to grow up. Be my age, get a grip. I told her I feel 250 and I'm gripping on to anything that will hold me. Now, after I've been biting my nails for days, she says she has the answer.

Interns. INTERNS! I ask you! Of course I accepted.

She has it in hand already and thanks to EFFE she's talked to friends in Estonia and Italy and found me Sofie and Carlo. They come highly recommended which, knowing Oxana's lies to me over the years, probably means they've never even been to any sort of festival, never mind worked in one.

Maybe they'll be my salvation. Maybe I hate them already. I think I need a drink.